The Munich Agreement was an agreement between France, Italy, Nazi Germany and Britain. After Germany threatened an invasion of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, the British and French prime ministers tried to get Hitler to agree not to use his military in the future in return for taking the land, including the Rhineland and others. After Hitler agreed, most people thought the agreement was a success, but Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Later that year, the Second World War started.
Czechoslovakia was an independent country in 1938. It was formed in 1918 after the First World War with international agreement. Hitler wanted Lebensraum (meaning "living space"), which would have all Germans in Czechoslovakia united with Germany. As most German-speakers in Czechoslovakia were in the Sudetenland, Hitler set his sights there first. He knew that most of the industrial strength of Czechoslovakia would be lost with the Sudetenland leaving Czechoslovakia. Britain, France and the Soviet Union had all agreed to support Czechoslovakia if it was invaded.
On September 12, 1938, Hitler told the Sudeten Germans that he would support them. On the 15th, Chamberlain met with Hitler in a last ditch-attempt to avert war. Hitler moderated his demands and said he was interested only in parts of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain thought that to be reasonable and that Hitler would be satisfied. However, on the 22nd, Hitler changed his demands and now said that he wanted the whole of the Sudetenland. The British Navy mobilised. and war seemed imminent.
Mussolini persuaded Hitler to attend a four power peace conference in Munich on the 29th September. The conference was held between four leaders, Hitler for Germany, Mussolini for Italy, Chamberlain for Britain, and Daladier for France. The Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia were not invited.
At the conference Mussolini put forward a plan (really written by the German Foreign Office) that the Sudetenland was to become part of Germany immediately. The German army was to march into the Sudetenland the following day and claim it as German territory. Britain and France agreed, Czechoslovakia was not even consulted and the USSR was horrified. Chamberlain returned to Britain to receive a hero's welcome as he had achieved "peace for our time" with his policy.
Edvard Beneš, the Czechoslovak president, resigned. He felt betrayed after Britain and France's promises to help Czechs. On October 1, Germans walked into the Sudetenland, and Hungary and Poland also grabbed land in Czechoslovakia that had Hungarians and Poles.
- British Pathe newsreel (includes Chamberlain's speech at Heston aerodrome)
- Peace: And the Crisis Begins from a broadcast by Dorothy Thompson, October 1, 1938